Travels around Ghana
I have just returned from a week working in Ghana. Our country office is in Accra, which is where I started my week, but it turned out that most of the expenditure I was interested in was in our northern-most program area, in the Upper West district on the Burkina Faso border. As a result I spent much of the week in a Land Cruiser, travelling some 1,823km in total. The upside was that I saw so much of Ghana, from south to north, rainforest to savannah. The downside that my morning pick-ups from the various hotels have ranged between 5am and 8am. Plus we worked all day Saturday, the one day I had originally hoped to spend sight-seeing, and most days didn't finish until 9pm. Technically I should get three days off work to compensate for the weekend working and travel, etc, but I have so much to do that I doubt I can manage one day.
But it was a great opportunity to see Ghana. Particularly in the Upper West district, where I was taken to see irrigation projects and to speak to community members involved in the projects. It is a beautiful part of the country, but has rain for only three months of the year and virtually no sources of water for the rest of the time, so there is serious malnutrition, and seasonal migration, during the dry season. Our irrigation projects there are aimed at providing a water source to their communities throughout the year, which should provide food security and reduce migration. The results were clear to see – well into the dry season, the irrigated areas were green and full of crops, and the water outlets were surrounded by women collecting water for cooking and washing. I asked whether the water storage was likely to provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and was told that fish were being introduced into the water basins to prey on the mosquito larvae, and would also act as a further source of protein for the communities.
Another problem that had to be addressed was that crocodiles (of which we saw three) like to dig holes into mud banks, so the dam walls had to be faced with large stones to prevent them doing so. These sort of projects are very complicated – and I do wonder whether all of the environmental (and social?) implications are understood – but certainly in the short term the effects are very positive.
But the Ghana I saw was not just a land of poverty. The Senegalese are proud of Dakar’s prominence within West Africa – they see it as the capital of the region – but I find it hard to track down many of the things I need or want here, and was surprised to see them all on sale in the markets of Ghana. If there had been any time available to shop I would be carrying home avocados, digestive biscuits, porridge oats, an electric toothbrush, a CD rack…
I enjoyed flying via the Ivory Coast, too, which looked beautiful from the air. Around Abidjan it was lush and green, with lots of rivers or lagoons. There were also some wonderful palm tree plantations, with palms laid out in neat rows – looking from the air like fields of green stars.
I also took the opportunity to join the Air Ivoire frequent flyer scheme. I don’t have the opportunity to collect airmiles the way my colleagues do in regions served by better-known airlines, but thought I should sign up to what I can. With the starter card I get a newsletter, but if I do enough flights to move up to Ivory level, I will be entitled to “a privileged welcome at the Air Ivoire offices and reservations”. I can’t wait.